Legislative Update – January 18, 2019
The House was in full swing this week, with almost every committee holding public hearings. Legislators heard debates on education, the opioid crisis, tax policy, condominium association issues and medical marijuana. The Senate Transportation Committee received briefings from several state agencies. Senators will begin holding public hearings next week.
‘Cause I’m the taxman
Last summer lawmakers could not agree on legislation to shield the state’s businesses from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wayfair v. South Dakota tax decision. They will try again this session by way of at least three bills. The high court’s Wayfair decision essentially removed barriers that had previously prevented states that have a sales tax from imposing that tax on their residents who buy things from out of state, such as through mail order or the internet. For decades, federal law had required a business to have a physical presence in the other state before the home state could impose the tax. As one of the few states that doesn’t have a sales tax, New Hampshire agencies and businesses have no history in dealing with the ins-and-outs of one. Businesses, particularly smaller ones, fear that collecting, recording and remitting the tax to other states will be too burdensome. The state’s federal delegation has offered a bill in Congress to help the states that don’t have a sales tax, but it faces long odds. A further wrinkle has emerged from the state Attorney General’s Office, which said that legislation here should include an appropriation to fund the legal fights that will surely ensue when the other states begin to challenge any action to thwart their collection efforts.
All in the family
Another piece of unfinished legislative business from last year is a paid family and medical leave program. Governor Chris Sununu and Vermont Governor Phil Scott this week announced a two-state initiative to offer the plan, the heart of which would be the states’ public employees. Managed by a private insurer, the plan would provide 60 percent of a worker’s wages for up to six weeks in the event of a birth of a child, the serious illness of a relative, or other events. Private businesses could also buy in, at rates that would vary with the size and participation rate of the business. Individuals who work for private sector entities that did not offer paid family and medical leave could also buy in. Democratic leaders, who last year favored a broader program with more funding from the state, have already voiced doubts about the new plan. Last year the plan died in the Senate after Governor Sununu expressed concerns over the plan’s long-term financial viability.
More to worry about….
Fire may be the big news in California, but the House Education Committee this week heard testimony on a bill that would require schools to consider other dangers. Schools are currently mandated to hold ten fire drills per school year. Under proposed legislation, four of those drills would be changed to include training on staff and student response to other disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. One of the four drills would cover an active shooter situation. Response to the idea from committee members and stakeholders was generally in favor.
Legislative committees will continue to hold public hearings next week. The House will meet in its first full session on Thursday, January 31. The Senate has not yet scheduled a session.